Film Society's Alluring Winter Slate: Decade, "Dolan," Jewish, and Wiseman
by Anthony Kaufman
While dreams of Park City snowflakes and dollar signs dominate the minds of most of the independent film world this Winter season, New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center ushers in a slate of programs worthy of note and takes a few steps of its own toward joining the fray of exhibiting quality films in search of distribution.
In addition to their collaboration with Sundance Channel's new original television series "Conversations in World Cinema" reported in yesterday's indieWIRE, earlier this week the Film Society announced a 12-film series titled "Top of the World: Film Comment Selects the Most Important Films and Filmmakers of the Nineties," running March 3-8, which includes, among others, the New York premieres of Manoel de Oliviera's "Inquietude" (still without a distributor since its Cannes '98 debut), Abbas Kiarostami's "The Wind Will Carry Us" (just acquired by New Yorker Films) and Lars Von Trier's "Idiots." The latter, after being acquired by October Films (now USA Films) at Cannes 1998, has been waiting in the vaults for a U.S. release since then. But with the help of the Film Society, that may soon change.
Film Society Program Director Richard Peña told indieWIRE, "['Idiots'] deserves to have a chance to be seen by the American public, and this will be the first opportunity for that to happen." According to a USA Films spokesperson, now with the timeliness of the Film Society's opening, the distributor is busily looking for a free New York screen to begin a theatrical release subsequent to its Lincoln Center premiere.
As well as the "Filmmakers of the Nineties" series, the season will also inaugurate a new program called "American Independent Visions" dedicated to showcasing American independent films shown within approximately the last year that have yet to be acquired for U.S. distribution. The first installment in the series, running February 25-March 2, is Lodge Kerrigan's "Claire Dolan," starring Katrin Cartlidge as a devastated call girl which received mixed reviews at its Cannes 98 premiere, but received Independent Spirit Award nominations and wide distribution overseas. "The idea," says Peña, "is to take something that for whatever reason has been passed on by distributors that we feel is, in fact, a good, strong film and we believe can get a public and deserves an audience."
Peña also explained that the Film Society will continue its monthly screening of American Indies in cooperation with the IFP called "Independents Night," but the focus of the program will shift towards documentaries. Each film in the "American Independent Visions" series is given a weeklong run at the Film Society's Walter Reade Theater. Peña's ultimate hopes for the series: "Once we hopefully get the publicity and the reviews, that would encourage someone to take it up and give it some theatrical life in other places, or will encourage other independent cinemas in different parts of the country to make their own bookings of the films." The next installment of the series has yet to be determined and will take place in June, followed by new films in September and December.
Also contributing to the wealth of new films on display from the Film Society is the 9th annual New York Jewish Festival, beginning this Sunday. Only Claude Lanzmann's "A Visitor from the Living" which premiered at the Film Society's own New York Film Festival last September, has a U.S. distributor (New Yorker Films). The festival explores the Jewish Diaspora, taking viewers to countries as near as the U.S. and Canada, and as far as Bulgaria, Hungary, Switzerland, and Greece.
Peña puts the festival in the same league as the San Francisco Jewish Festival as being among the "two major events" for exhibiting such films. "[These festivals] have become very good platforms for films to gain exposure, to either join the circuit of film festivals, or indeed, to go onto commercial distribution," comments Peña. "Obviously, all of us feel that we don't want our work to begin and end at Lincoln Center. I hope that these films go out there and by giving them this platform, this kind of publicity, we show the world that there is indeed an interest in this work."
Four new dramatic features will screen, beginning on Jan. 16 with the opening night NY premiere of Ivan Nichev's well-regarded "After The End of the World" (Bulgaria/Germany/Greece), which first screened in the Cannes market, then premiered in the Berlin Film Festival, and opened the 19th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival last July. Two new dramas from Germany will screen: Didi Danquart's "Jew Boy Levi," which won the 1999 Caligari Film Award at the Berlinale, and Rolf Schubel's "Gloomy Sunday," one of the nation's prime contenders for Oscar consideration about a "m